Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: A ‘Missing Person’ With A Name

Posted on August 5, 2008
Filed Under >Darwaish, Foreign Relations, Law & Justice, People, Politics, Women
Total Views: 130742


Aafia Siddiqui

Dr. Aafia’s Siddiqui story has been haunting most Pakistanis for months now. Famously known as ‘Prisoner 650’ at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, she is one of the missing persons of Pakistan, wanted by FBI on alleged links with Al-Qaeda.

Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a highly educated researcher who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, for about 10 years and did her PhD in genetics, mysteriously disappeared from Karachi in March 2003 along with her three children. Since then, US and Pakistani officials have continuously denied any knowledge about her.

It was only after British prisoner Moazzam Begg mentioned her in his book The Enemy Combatant that Human Rights Organizations and activists, British journalist Yvonne Ridley and MP Lord Nazir in particular, raised voice for Dr. Aafia kept in solitary confinement and her three children. A specially disturbing part of this story is that fate of her three children, aged between one month and 7 years at the time of her kidnapping, is still unknown.

Aafia SiddiquiIn 2007, the media started giving Dr. Aafia’s case more serious attention and several reports were published about her tragic fate. Amnesty International included her on a June 2007 list as someone for whom there was “evidence of secret detention by the United States and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.”

Britain’s Lord Nazir Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650. According to one news story, “He [Lord Nazir] said she is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at the prison.” Lord Nazir has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other prisoners.

And it was on July 6, 2008, when a British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, for over four years. “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her. This would never happen to a Western Woman,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference.

Ms Ridley, who came to Pakistan to appeal for help, said the case came to her attention when she read the book, The Enemy Combatant, by a former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg. After being seized in February 2002 in Islamabad, Mr. Begg was held in detention centres in Kandahar and Bagram for about a year before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recounted his experiences in the book after his release in 2005. Imran Khan, leader of Justice Party (PTI) has also been raising voice, held a joint press conference with Ms. Ridley on this issue, and criticised government of Pakistan for not doing anything and hiding facts about Prisoner 650.

After these reports in media, the US and Pakistani authorities were forced to admit just last week that Dr. Aafia was indeed in US captivity, the Prisoner 650 at Bagram Base.

CNN has released the official version of US Government today and according to Dr. Aafia’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, “a lot of the allegations implausible” and argued that the charges “don’t pass the sniff test.” According to CNN:

A Pakistani scientist accused of shooting at U.S. officers while in Afghan custody last month was due to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge Tuesday morning in New York.

Your Ad Here

Aafia Siddiqui-FBI Notice Aafia Siddiqui, whom the FBI had sought for several years for terrorism, faces federal charges of attempted murder and assault of a U.S. officer and U.S. employees, federal authorities said.

The 36-year-old American-educated neuroscientist is a suspected member of al Qaeda. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge. On July 18 Siddiqui shot at two FBI special agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, an Army captain and military interpreters who unknowingly entered a room where she was being held unsecured at an Afghan facility, officials said.

Siddiqui was behind a curtain when she used an officer’s rifle to shoot at the group, officials said. She shot twice but hit no one, they said. The warrant officer returned fire with a pistol, shooting Siddiqui at least once. She struggled with the officers before she lost consciousness and was then given medical attention. The day before the shootings, Afghan police arrested Siddiqui outside the Ghazni governor’s compound where they found bomb-making instructions, excerpts from the “Anarchist’s Arsenal,” papers with descriptions of U.S. landmarks, and substances sealed in bottles and glass jars, U.S. officials said Monday.

Responding to these allegation, Elaine Whitfield Sharp told DAWN, Geo and CNN:

“This is a very intelligent woman. What is she doing outside of the governor’s residence? The woman is a Ph.D. Is a woman like this really that stupid? There is an incongruity and I have trouble accepting the government’s claims,” the attorney said.

“If she was carrying fluids and was considered dangerous, then why was she left unattended in a room behind a curtain? And this dangerous, hardened criminal picks up a gun and misses?”

Dr. Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fauzia, held a press conference today along with Human Rights Activist Iqbal Haider and she urged authorities to presume her sister is innocent and is demanding that the government be required to prove any charges against her “beyond a reasonable doubt.” She appealed to the government of Pakistan, all religious, political parties and human rights organizations to play their active role in bringing her sister back home. At least, they should immediately hand over the children to the family as no law on earth allows that. This is one of the most serious violation of human rights. “I fear a political prosecution to protect the United States from embarrassment, rather than from ‘terrorism,'” Fouzia Siddiqui said. Iqbal Haider severely criticised US and Pakistani Governments and said that they promoting terrorism by doing inhuman acts like this.

I don’t know if Dr. Aafia has done anything illegal or not but the way she has been picked and handed over to US authorities along with three innocent children is a violation of even basic human rights and human dignity. What happened to the moral values, respect for law and Human Rights? If she has done something wrong, she should have been held accountable in the court of law and punished. But why detaining her illegally, along with 3 children, with any charge whatsoever for 5 years?

It should not be forgotten that the missing persons case was a turning point in recent Pakistan politics where Pervez Musharraf had a severe falling out with the then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry who was investigating this case. After much public agitation on the issue, the Chief Justice ordered that EVERYONE to be produced in court and then charged so that a free and fair trial could be held. Something which couldn’t be done at that time as many of the missing were already handed over to US authorities secretly.

Dr. Aafia’s case reminds us that how important the rule of law and justice is if we are to survive as a nation. Pakistan should immediately demand US Government to release 3 innocent children picked up with Dr. Aafia and hand them over to her family. Whatever the allegations on her may be, there is no justification whatsoever for kidnapping and detaining three innocent children and keeping them away from their family for 5 years.

Additional information about Dr. Aafia can be found here, here, here and here. For more info about Missing in Pakistan, watch these 3-part video by Ziad Zafar.

173 responses to “Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: A ‘Missing Person’ With A Name”

  1. Abid Ali Durrani says:

    Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, is Innocent, and Sincere Muslim and Human Being. America is dealing her as a model case to threaten and warn all the people who have soft heart and great courage to not surrender before any DEVIL or JADDAL.

    It looks, America is calling the Curse of Allah and is gradually proceeding to its self-started end with its own hands and acts.

  2. SHAHID says:

    Aafia Siddiqui (born March 2, 1972, in Karachi, Pakistan) is a Pakistani Muslim neuroscientist, accused of being an al-Qaeda member.[6] A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alumna and Brandeis University Ph.D., and mother of three, she had disappeared in March 2003.[1][4][6] Her disappearance followed the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, alleged chief planner of the September 11 attacks and the uncle of her second husband, and the subsequent issue by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of a global “wanted for questioning” alert for her.[1] In 2004, witnesses in a UN war-crimes-tribunal meeting held in Serria Leone identified her as an al-Qaeda member.[1] The charges against her stem solely from the shooting incident itself, not from any alleged act of terrorism, nor from conspiring with or giving comfort to terrorists.[7][8]

    According to the FBI, she resurfaced when she was arrested July 17, 2008, by the Afghan National Police.[9] They report that a police search of her handbag after the arrest produced a number of documents written in Urdu and English describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, Ebola, dirty bombs, and radiological agents (which discussed mortality rates of certain of the weapons), and handwritten notes referring to a “mass casualty attack”.[10]

    Siddiqui was charged with two counts of attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees which all took place following her arrest,[4][10] and during which she was very severely wounded.[11] The Federal judge declared her fit to stand trial, despite witnesses disagreeing on her mental state.[12] She was convicted in February 2010, in a Manhattan court, on all counts.[4][5][11][13] She will be sentenced on May 6, 2010, and faces a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison on the firearm charge, and could also get up to 20 years for each attempted murder and firearms charge, and up to 8 years on each of the remaining assault counts.

    She has not to date been charged with or prosecuted for any terrorism-related offences.[14] Many of Siddiqui’s supporters, including international human rights organizations have claimed that Siddiqui was no extremist and that she, along with her young children, was illegally detained and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence, likely at the behest of the U.S. while Siddiqui’s family said she was abducted and tortured by US intelligence[15] all claims that the U.S. and Pakistan deny.[16][17] This prompted Amnesty International to monitor the trial “to assess the fairness of the proceedings, given many unresolved questions surrounding the case.[18]
    Early life

    Siddiqui is the youngest of three siblings.[1] She attended school in Zambia until the age of eight, and then subsequently in Karachi, Pakistan.[19] Her father, Muhammad Salay Siddiqui, was a British-trained neurosurgeon, and her mother, Ismet (née Faroochi), is a now-retired Islamic teacher and social worker, who was prominent in political-religious circles.[1][9][20][21][22] She has one brother Mohammad Azi Siddiqui, an architect, who lives in Texas;[19] her sister, Fowzia, is a Harvard-trained neurologist who lives and works in Pakistan.[1][21][19][23]
    [edit] Undergraduate education

    Siddiqui moved to Texas in the United States on a student visa in 1990, joining her brother.[16][19][24] After attending the University of Houston for three semesters, she transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[21][19] In 1992, as a sophomore, Siddiqui received a Carroll L. Wilson Award for her research proposal “Islamization in Pakistan and its Effects on Women”.[1][19][25] As a junior, she received a $1,200 City Days fellowship through MIT’s program to help clean up Cambridge elementary school playgrounds.[1]

    She was regarded as religious by her fellow MIT students, but not unusually so: Marnie Biando, a former student who lived in the dorm at the time said “She was just nice and soft-spoken, [and not] terribly assertive.”[21] She joined the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA),[1][26] and a fellow Pakistani recalls her recruiting for association meetings and distributing pamphlets.[14] Journalist Deborah Scroggins believes Siddiqui may have been drawn Siddiqui into the world of terrorism through her contacts made there:

    At MIT, several of the MSA’s most active members had fallen under the spell of Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brother who was Osama bin Laden’s mentor…. [Azzam] had established the Al Kifah Refugee Center to function as its worldwide recruiting post, propaganda office, and fund-raising center for the mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan… It would become the nucleus of the al-Qaeda organization.[1]

    Siddiqui solicited money for the Al Kifah Refugee Center, which advocated armed violence, one of its members had just killed Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990, and it was tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[1][27] Through the MAS she met several committed Islamists, including Suheil Laher, its imam, who publicly advocated Islamization and jihad before 9/11.[9] Fox News, citing Brandeis records, reported that Siddiqui taught General Biology Lab, a course required for undergraduate biology majors, pre-med and pre-dental students, in early 1999.[27]

    When Pakistan asked the U.S. for help in 2003 in combating religious extremism, Siddiqui circulated the announcement with a scornful note deriding Pakistan for “officially” joining “the typical gang of our contemporary Muslim governments”, closing her email with a quote from the Quran warning Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends.[1] She wrote three guides for teaching Islam, expressing the hope in one: “that our humble effort continues … and more and more people come to the [religion] of Allah until America becomes a Muslim land.”[1] She also took a 12-hour pistol training course at the Braintree Rifle and Pistol Club.[28]

    While she initially majored in Biochemical and Biophysical Studies at MIT, she graduated in 1995 with a BS in Biology.[4][6][19][29] In February 1996, she wrote an article for the MIT information systems newsletter I/S entitled “Four Ways to get MITnet Applications for Macs and PCs”.[30]
    [edit] Postgraduate, work and marriage
    headshot of dark-haired man with a small moustache
    Amjad Mohammed Khan, Siddiqui’s first husband

    In 1995 she had an arranged marriage to anesthesiologist Amjad Mohammed Khan from Karachi, just out of medical school, whom she had never seen.[9][16] They were married over the phone.[31] Her husband came to the U.S., and they lived first in Lexington, Massachusetts, and then in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Roxbury (in Boston), as he worked as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.[1][16] She gave birth to a son in 1996 (Mohammad Ahmed/Ali Hassan), and in September 1998 had a daughter (Maram Bint Muhammad); both are American citizens.[9][32]

    Siddiqui studied cognitive neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at Brandeis University.[4][16][33] She received a Ph.D. degree in 2001 for her dissertation, entitled “Separating the Components of Imitation”,[19][34] and also co-authored a journal article.[35]

    In 1999, while living in Boston, Siddiqui (as president), her husband (as treasurer), and her sister (as resident agent) founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching as a nonprofit organization.[19][36][37] On October 3, 2005, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the organization’s charitable status.[38]

    She attended a mosque outside the city where she stored copies of the Quran and other Islamic literature for distribution.[39] She also helped establish the Dawa Resource Center, a program that distributed Qurans and offered Islam-based advice to prison inmates.[32]
    [edit] Divorce, remarriage, and al-Qaeda allegations

    According to a dossier prepared by U.N. investigators for the 9/11 Commission, Siddiqui was one of six alleged al-Qaeda members who bought blood diamonds in Liberia immediately prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks.[40] Alan White, former chief investigator of a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Liberia, said she was the woman who called herself ‘Fahrem'[9] (alternative seems to be ‘Feriel Shahin’) who was in Monrovia on June 16, 2001 to buy blood diamonds – easily transportable, convertible, and untraceable assets – worth $19 million which her accusers believe were for funding al-Qaeda operations.[1][9][21][41] Three years later, in May 2004, one of the go-betweens in the deal identified Siddiqui as Shahin. However, her family and that of her husband say it is impossible. Siddiquis’ lawyer says there are credit-card receipts and other records which show that she was in Boston at the time;[1] FBI agent Dennis Lormel, who investigated terrorism financing, said the agency quickly ruled out her involvement, although she remained suspected of money laundering.[8]

    In the summer of 2001, the couple moved to Malden, Massachusetts.[1] According to Khan, after the September 11 attacks Siddiqui insisted on leaving the U.S., saying that it was unsafe for them and their children to remain.[42] He also said that she wanted him to move to Afghanistan, and work as a medic for the mujahideen.[8][16]

    In May 2002, the FBI questioned Siddiqui and her husband regarding their purchase over the internet of $10,000 worth of night vision equipment, body armor, and military manuals including The Anarchist’s Arsenal, Fugitive, Advanced Fugitive, and How to Make C-4.[8][21][31] Khan claimed that these were for hunting and camping expeditions. On June 26, 2002, the couple and their children returned to Pakistan.[1][4][9][31]

    In August 2002, Khan said Siddiqui was abusive and manipulative throughout their seven years of marriage; her violent personality and extremist views lead him to suspect her of involvement in jihadi activities.[42] Khan went to Siddiqui’s parents’ home, and announced his intention to divorce her and argued with her father. The latter died of a heart attack on August 15, 2002.[1][21] In September 2002, Siddiqui gave birth to the last of their three children, Suleman.[1] The couple’s divorce was finalized on October 21, 2002.[1][8]

    The BBC reported that Siddiqui worked briefly in Baltimore after the birth, and returned to Pakistan in December.[14] She left again for the US on December 25, 2002, informing her ex-husband that she was looking for a job;[1] she returned on January 2, 2003.[1][4] Amjad later said he was suspicious of her explanation as universities were on winter break.[42] The FBI linked her to an alleged al-Qaeda operative, Majid Khan, who they suspected of having planned attacks on gas stations and underground fuel-storage tanks in the Baltimore/Washington area. They said that the real purpose of her trip was to open a post office box, to make it appear that Majid was still in the US.[9][20][21][43][44] Siddiqui listed Majid Khan as a co-owner of the P.O. box, falsely identified him as her husband.[6][8] The P.O. box key was later found in the possession of Uzair Paracha, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in 2006 of providing material support to al-Qaeda.[1][45]

    Approximately six months after her first marriage ended, she married accused al-Qaeda member Ammar al-Baluchi in Karachi.[16][19][31][43] Al Baluchi, also known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, is a nephew of al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,[6][16][43] and a cousin of Ramzi Yousef, convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.[6][43][46] Although Siddiqui’s family denied her marriage to al-Baluchi, it was confirmed by Pakistani and US intelligence, a defense psychologist,[47] and by Mohammed’s family.[14] Siddiqui herself confirmed it in court,[citation needed] but she disavowed his connections to al Qaeda.[47] Al-Baluchi was arrested on April 29, 2003, and taken to the Guantanamo Bay military prison;[43] he faces the death penalty in his upcoming trial in the U.S., for aiding the 9/11 hijackers.[16]
    [edit] Disappearance

    In early 2003, while Siddiqui was working at Aga Khan University in Karachi, she emailed a former professor at Brandeis and expressed interest in working in the U.S., citing lack of options in Karachi for women of her academic background.[9][31]
    Bedraggled man with heavy chest hair and tousled hair wearing a white t-shirt
    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Siddiqui’s second husband’s uncle, who reportedly revealed her name during his interrogation.

    According to the media, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, alleged al-Qaeda chief planner of the September 11 attacks, was interrogated by the CIA after his arrest on March 1, 2003.[48] Mohammed was tortured by waterboarding 183 times,[8][49] and his confessions triggered a series of related arrests shortly thereafter.[1] The press reported Mohammed naming Siddiqui as an al-Qaeda operative;[48] On March 25, 2003, the FBI issued a global “wanted for questioning” alert for Siddiqui and her ex-husband, Amjad Khan.[1] Khan was questioned by the FBI, and released.[31]

    Afraid the FBI would find her in Karachi, she left her parents’ house along with her three children[50] on March 30.[14] She took a taxi to the airport, ostensibly to catch a morning flight to Islamabad to visit her uncle, but disappeared.[9][31] Siddiqui’s and her children’s whereabouts and activities from March 2003 to July 2008 are a matter of dispute.

    On April 1, 2003, local newspapers reported, and Pakistan interior ministry confirmed, that a woman had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.[14] The Boston Globe described “sketchy” Pakistani news reports saying Pakistani authorities had detained Siddiqui, and had questioned her with FBI agents.[32][48] However, a couple of days later, both the Pakistan government and the FBI publicly denied having anything to do with her disappearance.[14] On April 22, 2003, two U.S. federal law enforcement officials anonymously said Siddiqui had been taken into custody by Pakistani authorities. Pakistani officials never confirmed the arrest, however, and later that day the U.S. officials amended their earlier statements, saying new information made it “doubtful” she was in custody.[51] Her sister Fauzia claimed Interior Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat said that her sister had been released and would be returning home “shortly”.[14]

    In 2003–04, the FBI and the Pakistani government said they did not know where Siddiqui was.[29][31][52] U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called her the most wanted woman in the world, an al-Qaeda “facilitator” who posed a “clear and present danger to the U.S.” On May 26, 2004, the U.S. listed her among the seven “most wanted” al-Qaeda fugitives.[48][53] One day before the announcement, The New York Times cited the Department of Homeland Security saying there were no current risks; American Democrats accused the Bush administration of attempting to divert attention from plummeting poll numbers and to push the failings of the Invasion of Iraq off the front pages.[54]

    “Lady Al-Qaeda”[55]
    —Headline reference to Siddiqui in New York Daily News

    “Prisoner 650″[56]
    —Headline reference to Siddiqui in Tehran Times

    According to her ex-husband, after the global alert for her was issued Siddiqui went into hiding, and worked for al-Qaeda.[31][42][57] During her disappearance Khan said he saw her at Islamabad airport in April 2003, as she disembarked from a flight with their son, and said he helped Inter-Services Intelligence identify her. He said he again saw her two years later, in a Karachi traffic jam.[8][31]

    Media reports Siddiqui having told the FBI that she worked at the Karachi Institute of Technology in 2005, was in Afghanistan in the winter of 2007; she stayed for a time during her disappearance in Quetta, Pakistan, and was sheltered by various people.[6][16][58] According to an intelligence official in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, her son Ahmad, who was with her when she was arrested, said he and Siddiqui had worked in an office in Pakistan, collecting money for poor people.[16] He told Afghan investigators that on August 14, 2008, they had traveled by road from Quetta, Pakistan, to Afghanistan.[23] Amjad Khan, who unsuccessfully sought custody of his eldest son, Ahmad, said most of the claims of the family in the Pakistani media relating to her and their children were to garner public support and sympathy for her; he said they were one-sided and in mostly false.[23][42] An Afghan intelligence official said he believes that Siddiqui was working with Jaish-e-Mohammed (the “Army of Muhammad), a Pakistani Islamic mujahedeen military group that fights in Kashmir and Afghanistan.[16]

    Siddiqui’s maternal uncle, Shams ul-Hassan Faruqi, said that on January 22, 2008, she visited him in Islamabad.[8][31] She said she had been held by Pakistani agencies, and asked for his help in order to cross into Afghanistan, where she thought she would be safe in the hands of the Taliban.[8][31] He had worked in Afghanistan, and made contact with the Taliban in 1999, but told her he was no longer in touch with them. He notified his sister, Siddiqui’s mother, who came the next day to see her daughter. He said that Siddiqui stayed with them for two days.[59] Her uncle has signed an affidavit swearing to these facts.[23]

    Ahmad and Siddiqui reappeared in 2008.[16] Afghan authorities handed the boy over to Pakistan in September 2008, and he now lives with his aunt in Karachi, who has prohibited him from talking to the press.[16][16][31] In April 2010, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that a 12-year-old girl who was found outside a house in Karachi was identified by a DNA test as Siddiqui’s daughter Mariyam, and that she had been returned to her family.[60]
    [edit] Alternative scenarios

    Siddiqui’s sister and mother denied that she had any connections to al-Qaeda, and that the U.S. detained her secretly in Afghanistan after she disappeared in Pakistan in March 2003 with her three children. They point to comments by former Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, detainees who say they believe a woman held at the prison while they were there was Siddiqui.[48] Her sister said that Siddiqui had been raped, and tortured for five years.[61][62] According to Islamic convert and former Taliban-captive, Yvonne Ridley, Siddiqui spent those years in solitary confinement at Bagram as Prisoner 650. Six human rights groups, including Amnesty International, listed her as possibly being a “ghost prisoner” held by the U.S.[6][32] Siddiqui herself gave conflicting explanations.[6] She alternately claimed that she had been kidnapped by U.S. intelligence and Pakistani intelligence, while also claiming that she was working for Pakistani intelligence during this time.[6]

    Siddiqui has not explained clearly what happened to her two other missing children.[6] She has alternated between saying that the two youngest children are dead, and that they are with her sister Fowzia, according to a psychiatric exam.[19] She told one FBI agent that sometimes one has to take up a cause that is more important than one’s children.[58] Khan said he believed that the missing children were in Karachi, either with or in contact with Siddiqui’s family, and not in U.S. detention.[23][42][63] He said that they were seen in her sister’s house in Karachi and in Islamabad on several occasions since their alleged disappearance in 2003.[23][42][64]

    The U.S. government said it did not hold Siddiqui during that time period, and had no knowledge of her whereabouts from March 2003 until July 2008.[65] The US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, categorically stated that Siddiqui had not been in US custody “at any time” prior to July 2008.[31] A U.S. Justice Department spokesman called the allegations “absolutely baseless and false”, a Central Intelligence Agency spokesman also denied that she had been detained by the U.S., and Gregory Sullivan, a State Department spokesman, said: “For several years, we have had no information regarding her whereabouts whatsoever. It is our belief that she … has all this time been concealed from the public view by her own choosing.”[32] Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin said in 2008 that U.S. agencies had searched for evidence to support allegations that Siddiqui was detained in 2003, and held for years, but found “zero evidence” that Ms. Siddiqui was abducted, kidnapped, tortured. He added: “A more plausible inference is that she went into hiding because people around her started to get arrested, and at least two of those people ended up at Guantanamo Bay.[66] According to some U.S. officials, she went underground after the FBI alert for her was issued, and was at large working on behalf of al-Qaeda.[31][57] The Guardian cites an anonymous senior Pakistani official suggesting an ‘invaluable asset’ like Siddiqui may have been “flipped” – turned against militant sympathisers – by Pakistani or American intelligence.[31]
    [edit] Arrest
    An aerial view of a compound, tree-filled terrain, and blue sea
    The Plum Island Animal Disease Center, one of the locations listed in Siddiqui’s notes with regard to a “mass casualty” attack

    According to court documents, Siddiqui was encountered on the evening of July 17, 2008, by officers of the police in Ghazni Province outside the Ghazni governor’s compound.[10][16] A man who feared she might be concealing a bomb under the burqua that she was wearing called the police.[6][9] She said her name was Saliha, that she was from Multan in Pakistan, and that the boy’s name was Ali Hassan.[9] Discovering that she did not speak either of Afghanistan’s main dialects, Pashtu or Dari, the officers regarded her as suspicious.[10]

    In a bag she was carrying, the police found that she had a number of documents written in Urdu and English describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, Ebola, dirty bombs, and radiological agents (which discussed mortality rates of certain of the weapons), and handwritten notes referring to a “mass casualty attack” that listed various U.S. locations and landmarks (including the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York City subway system), according to her indictment.[4][9][10][67][68] The Globe also mentioned one document about a ‘theoretical’ biological weapon that did not harm children.[16] She also reportedly had documents detailing U.S. “military assets”, excerpts from The Anarchist’s Arsenal, a one-gigabyte digital media storage device that contained over 500 electronic documents (including correspondence referring to attacks by “cells”, describing the U.S. as an enemy, and discussing recruitment of jihadists and training), maps of Ghazni and the provincial governor’s compounds and the mosques he prayed in, and photos of Pakistani military people.[4][6][9][10][31][69][70] Other notes described various ways to attack enemies, including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders.[4][6]

    She also had “numerous chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars”, according to the later complaint against her,[4][9][10][31][69][71] and about two pounds of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic poison.[6][72] Abdul Ghani, Ghazni’s deputy police chief, said she later confessed that she intended to carry out a suicide attack against the provincial governor.[73]

    The officers arrested her, as she cursed them, and took her to a police station. She said that the boy found with her was her stepson, Ali Hasan; Siddiqui subsequently admitted he was her biological son when DNA testing proved that the boy to be Ahmed.[9][19]

    There are conflicting accounts of the events following her arrest which led to her being sent to the United States for trial – American authorities say that the following day, on July 18, two FBI agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, a U.S. Army captain, and their U.S. military interpreters arrived in Ghazni to interview Siddiqui at the Afghan National Police facility where she was being held.[4][10][69][74]

    The Americans witnesses reported they congregated in a meeting room that was partitioned by a curtain, but did not realize that Siddiqui was standing unsecured behind the curtain.[4][10][74] The warrant officer sat down adjacent to the curtain, and put his loaded M-4 assault rifle on the floor by his feet, next to the curtain.[10][74] Siddiqui, drew back the curtain, picked up the rifle, and pointed it at the captain.[69][74] Then, the situation became very chaotic,[75] An Afghan interpreter who was seated closest to her lunged, grabbed and pushed the rifle, and tried to wrest it from her.[4][10][69][74][76] At that point the warrant officer shot at her with a 9-millimeter pistol, hitting her in the torso, and one of the interpreters managed to wrestle the rifle away from her.[6][10][74][77]

    According to Pakistani senators who later visited her in jail, Siddiqui related a different version of events. She denied touching a gun, shouting, or threatening anyone. She said that she stood up so she could see who was on the other side of the curtain, and that after one of the startled soldiers shouted, “She is loose”, she was shot. On regaining consciousness, she said someone said “We could lose our jobs.”[8]

    Afghan police offered a third version of the events, telling Reuters that U.S. troops had demanded that she be handed over, disarmed the Afghans when they refused, and then shot Siddiqui mistakenly thinking she was a suicide bomber.[78]

    She was taken to Bagram Air Base by helicopter in critical condition. When she arrived at the hospital she was 3 on Glasgow Coma Scale, but she underwent emergency surgery without complication while hospitalized at the Craig Theater Joint Hospital, and recovered over the next two weeks.[8][19] Once she was in a stable condition, the Pakistani government allowed the Americans to transport her to the United States for trial; at no time did she have legal counsel. The day after landing, Siddiqui was arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom on charges of attempted murder. Her three-person defense team was hired by the Pakistani embassy to supplement her two existing public defenders, but Siddiqui refused to cooperate with them.[8]
    [edit] Trial
    [edit] Charges

    Siddiqui was charged on July 31, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, with assault with a deadly weapon, and with attempting to kill U.S. personnel.[10][31] She was flown to New York on August 6, and indicted on September 3, 2008, on two counts of attempted murder of U.S. nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying and using a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees.[4][79][80] Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University, said the decision considerably simplified the case, without needing to rely on intelligence data or exposing sources and methods: “It’s a good old-fashioned crime; it’s the equivalent of a 1920s gangster with a tommy gun.”[81]
    [edit] Medical treatment and psychological assessments

    According to FBI reports prepared shortly after July 18, 2008, Siddiqui repeatedly denied shooting anyone.[82] On August 11, after her counsel informed the court that Siddiqui had not seen a doctor since arriving in the U.S. the previous week, U.S. magistrate judge Henry B. Pitman ordered that she be examined by a medical doctor within 24 hours.[83] Prosecutors maintained that Siddiqui had been provided with adequate medical care. The judge postponed her bail hearing until September 3.[84] An examination by a doctor the following day found no visible signs of infection; she also received a CAT scan.[85]

    Siddiqui was provided care for her wound while incarcerated in the U.S.[19] In September 2008, a prosecutor reported to the court that Siddiqui had refused to be examined by a female doctor, despite the doctor’s extensive efforts.[82] On September 9, 2008, she underwent a forced medical exam.[19] In a March 2009 report, Dr. Saathoff noted that Siddiqui frequently verbally and physically refused to allow the medical staff to check her vital signs and weight, attempted to refuse medical care once it was apparent that her wound had largely healed, and refused to take antibiotics.[19] At the same time, Siddiqui claimed to her brother that when she needed medical treatment she did not get it, which Saathoff said he found no support for in his review of documents and interviews with medical and security personnel, and his interviews with Siddiqui.[19]

    Siddiqui’s trial was subject to delays, the longest being six months in order to perform psychiatric evaluations.[31] She had been given routine mental health check-ups ten times in August and six times in September. Prison psychologist Dr. Diane McLean diagnosed Siddiqui with psychosis on September 2. One week later, Dr. McLean diagnosed that her condition was chronic.[86] Forensic psychologist Leslie Powers initially determined Siddiqui mentally unfit to stand trial. After reviewing portions of FBI reports, she told the pre-trial judge she believed Siddiqui was faking mental illness.[16]

    However, in psychological assessments for the prosecution, three of four psychiatrists concluded that she was faking her symptoms . One suggested that this was to prevent criminal prosecution, and to improve her chances of being returned to Pakistan.[31][82] In April 2009, Manhattan federal judge Richard Berman held that she “may have some mental health issues” but was competent to stand trial.[31][82]
    [edit] Jury selection controversy; threatened boycott

    Siddiqui said she did not want Jews on the jury. She demanded that all prospective jurors be DNA-tested, and excluded from the jury at her trial:

    if they have a Zionist or Israeli background … they are all mad at me … I have a feeling everyone here is them—subject to genetic testing. They should be excluded, if you want to be fair.[87]

    Siddiqui’s legal team said, in regard to her comments, that her incarceration had damaged her mind.[6][88]

    Prior to her trial, Siddiqui said she was innocent of all charges. She maintained she could prove she was innocent, but refused to do so in court.[89] On January 11, 2010, Siddiqui told the Judge that she would not cooperate with her attorneys, and wanted to fire them.[90] She also said she did not trust the Judge, and that she was “boycotting the trial … there are too many injustices. I’m out of this”.[citation needed] Following her outburst she was removed from the court, though the Judge said she would be allowed back, as she was entitled to be present at her trial.[citation needed]
    [edit] Trial proceedings

    Siddiqui’s trial began in New York City on January 19, 2010.[91][92][93][94] Prior to the jury entering the courtroom, Siddiqui told onlookers that she would not work with her lawyers because the court was not fair[95] She also said: “I have information about attacks, more than 9/11! … I want to help the President to end this group, to finish them … They are a domestic, U.S. group; they are not Muslim.”[96][97]

    Nine government witnesses were called by the prosecution: Army Captain Robert Snyder, John Threadcraft, a former army officer, and John Jefferson, an FBI agent testified first.[13] As Snyder testified that Siddiqui had been arrested with a handwritten note outlining plans to attack various U.S. sites, she retorted: “If you were in a secret prison … where children were tortured … This is no list of targets against New York. I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”[3][98][99][100] The court also heard from FBI agent John Jefferson and Ahmed Gul, an army interpreter, who recounted their struggle with her.[101]

    The defense said there was no forensic evidence that the rifle was fired in the interrogation room.[102] They noted the nine government witnesses offered conflicting accounts of how many people were in the room, where they were positioned and how many shots were fired.[13] It said it her handbag contents were not credible as evidence because they were sloppily handled.[103] According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, Carlo Rosati, an FBI firearms expert witness in the federal court doubted whether the M-4 rifle was ever fired at the crime scene.; an FBI agent testified that Siddiqui’s fingerprints were not found on the rifle.[104] The prosecution argued that it was not unusual to fail to get fingerprints off a gun. “This is a crime that was committed in a war zone, a chaotic and uncontrolled environment 6,000 miles away from here.”[99] Gul’s testimony appeared, according to the defense, to differ from that given by Snyder with regard to whether Siddiqui was standing or on her knees as she fired the rifle.[105] When Siddiqui testified, though she admitted trying to escape, she denied that she had grabbed the rifle and said she had been tortured in secret prisons before her arrest by a “group of people pretending to be Americans, doing bad things in America’s name.”[106]

    During the trial, Siddiqui was removed from the court several times for repeatedly interrupting the proceedings with shouting; on being ejected, she was told by the judge that she could watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television in an adjacent holding cell. A request by the defense lawyers to declare a mistrial was turned down by the judge.[107]
    [edit] Conviction

    The trial lasted 14 days, and the jury deliberated for 3 days before reaching a verdict.[5][13]

    On February 3, 2010, she was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees.[5][11][13] She faces a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison on the firearm charge, and could also receive a sentence of up to 20 years for each attempted murder and armed assault charge, and up to 8 years on each of the remaining assault counts.[5][108][109] Sentence will be passed on May 6, 2010.[11] After jurors found Siddiqui guilty, Siddiqui exclaimed: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. That’s where the anger belongs.”[110]
    [edit] Reaction in Pakistan

    In August 2009, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani met with Siddiqui’s sister at his residence, and assured her that Pakistan would seek Siddiqui’s release from the U.S.[111] The Pakistani government paid $2 million for the services of three lawyers to defend Siddiqui during her trial.[112] Many Siddiqui supporters were present during the proceedings, and outside the court dozens of people rallied to demand her release.[113]

    A petition was filed seeking action against the Pakistani government for it having not approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to have Siddiqui released from the United States. Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffree said the CIA arrested Siddiqui in Karachi in 2003, and one of her sons was killed during her arrest. On January 21, 2010, he submitted documents allegedly proving the arrest to the Lahore High Court.[114]

    In Pakistan, Siddiqui’s February 2010 conviction was followed with expressions of support by many Pakistanis, who appeared increasingly anti-American, as well as by politicians and the news media, who characterized her as a symbol of victimization by the United States.[23] Her ex-husband, Amjad Khan, was one of the few who expressed a different view, saying that Siddiqui was “reaping the fruit of her own decision. Her family has been portraying Aafia as a victim. We would like the truth to come out.”[115]

    After Siddiqui’s conviction, she sent a message through her lawyer, saying that “she doesn’t want there to be violent protests or violent reprisals in Pakistan over this verdict.”[13] Thousands of students, political and social activists protested in Pakistan.[48] Some shouted anti-American slogans, while burning the American flag and effigies of President Obama in the streets.[116][117] Her sister has spoken frequently and passionately on her behalf at rallies.[23][117][118] Echoing her family’s comments, and anti-U.S. sentiment, many believe she was picked up in Karachi in 2003, detained at the U.S. Bagram Airbase, and tortured, and that the charges against her were fabricated.[48][119]

    The Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC, expressed its diplomats’ dismay over the verdict, which followed “intense diplomatic and legal efforts on her behalf. [We] will consult the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the team of defense lawyers to determine the future course of action.”[120] Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani described Siddiqui as a “daughter of the nation,” and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif promised to push for her release.[23] On February 18, President Asif Ali Zardari requested of Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the U.S. consider repatriating Siddiqui to Pakistan under the Pakistan-U.S. Prisoner Exchange Agreement.[121][122] On February 22, the Pakistani Senate passed a resolution expressing its grave concern over Siddiqui’s sentence, and demanding that the government take effective steps including diplomatic measures to secure her immediate release.[123]

    Shireen Mazari, editor of the right-wing Pakistani newspaper The Nation, wrote that the verdict “did not really surprise anyone familiar with the vindictive mindset of the U.S. public post-9/11”.[124] Foreign Policy reported that rumors about her alleged sexual molestation and sexual abuse by captors, fuelled by constant stories in the Pakistani press, had made her a folk hero, and “become part of the legend that surrounds her, so much so that they are repeated as established facts by her supporters, who have helped build her iconic status”.[117]

    Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio noted on March 1 that while when Siddiqui’s case has been covered in the U.S., it has mostly been described as a straightforward case of terrorism, in contrast when “the Pakistani media described this very same woman, this very same case, the assumptions are all very different”.[125] The News International, Pakistan’s largest circulation English tabloid, carried a March 3 letter from Talat Farooq, the executive editor of the magazine Criterion in Islamabad, in which she wrote:

    The media has highlighted her ordeal without debating the downside of her story in objective detail. A whole generation of Pakistanis, grown up in an environment that discourages critical analysis and dispassionate objectivity … has … allowed their emotions to be exploited. The Aafia case is complex… The grey lady is grey precisely because of her murky past and the question mark hanging over her alleged links to militants…. Her family’s silence during the years of her disappearance, and her ex-husband’s side of the story, certainly provide fodder to the opposing point of view…. The right-wing parties … have once again played the card of anti-Americanism to attain their own political ends…. Our hatred of America, based on some very real grievances, also serves as a readily available smokescreen to avoid any rational thinking…. The response of the religious political lobby to Aafia’s plight is symbolic of our social mindset.[126]

    A New York Times article reviewing the Pakistani reaction noted: “All of this has taken place with little national soul-searching about the contradictory and frequently damning circumstances surrounding Ms. Siddiqui, who is suspected of having had links to Al Qaeda and the banned jihadi group Jaish-e-Muhammad. Instead, the Pakistani news media have broadly portrayed her trial as a “farce”, and an example of the injustices meted out to Muslims by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”[23]

    Jessica Eve Stern, a terrorism specialist and lecturer at Harvard Law School, observed: “Whatever the truth is, this case is of great political importance because of how people [in Pakistan] view her.”[16]
    [edit] Taliban threat

    According to the Pakistani newspaper The News International, the Taliban has threatened to execute captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, whom they have held since June 2009, in retaliation for Siddiqui’s conviction.[127][128] They claim members of Siddiqui’s family requested their help. A Taliban spokesman said:

    We tried our best to make the family understand that our role may create more troubles for the hapless woman, who was already in trouble. On their persistent requests, we have now decided to include Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s name in the list of our prisoners in US custody that we delivered to Americans in Afghanistan for swap of their soldier in our custody.[17]

  3. GULAM MUSTAFA says:


  4. Asad says:

    The curious case of Aafia Siddui and the conspiracy theorists!

    By: Ahmed Naqvi

    Aafia Siddiqui’s legal case has done its round in Pakistan’s media. From the anti-government newspaper The Nation, to the relatively liberal and seemingly unbiased Dawn, everyone has taken a swipe at this jaw-dropping, mind-numbing political situation. Yes, political situation. Though her curious case may have been shrouded under a dark cloud, the manner in which the opponents of this government have turned her case into a ticking time bomb is truly disgusting.

    Recently a protest was carried out in Gujranwala at the behest of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Why? They wanted to “condemn” the jury decision made by a US court, which went against their wishes. I have no complaints with holding a protest, it is a privilege we all share given by our constitution, but tell me, how many of the protestors knew the details surrounding the case? Is it not ironic that people argue for the supremacy and sovereignty of courts in their own country, but “condemn” the courts of another? Furthermore, you want the United States to be respectful, but all you can do is burn the US Flag and effigies of their political leaders. Practice what you preach; it is really not that hard.

    It is unfortunate that whenever Pakistan is mentioned in the media, we seem to be under a cloud of negative news stories. With the amount of media covering the case, one would think that Mrs. Siddiqui would take the opportunity and prove her innocence on an emotional front. What did she end up doing? Much to the delight of Zaid Hamid, Aafia Siddiqui lambasted Israel and Zionism (which has nothing to do with her legal case) and refused assistance provided by her government. I find it truly amazing that the MIT graduate did not take a smarter route and ended up looking like well – not innocent.

    What is more regrettable in such situations is not the outcry we witness in Pakistan but the instigators who enjoy making the situation a political mountain. These nincompoops play with the emotions and sentiments of the Pakistani nation. One of them seems to be enjoying the spotlight with a fashion designer, while the other is nothing short of a brilliant fable writer. You guessed them – Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quraishi. Zaid Hamid is a comic story and it is hilarious to see how he is making rounds in schools and colleges promoting the Pakistan Allama Iqbal envisioned. It is an insult, that a character as shady and repulsive as Hamid’s, is trying to create parallels with one of our most noble and revered leaders.

    To truly understand the fable writing of Ahmed Quraishi, one only needs to go through his website and find all the predictions he has made. Sadly, none of them have come true. How I wish they had, it would have saved me some research and allowed me to concentrate elsewhere! Working in collaboration with The Nation, Mr. Quraishi has gone to great lengths slinging mud on diplomats, bureaucrats and elected officials. Singing a populist tone, he lambasts the United States for constant drone attacks, but refuses to pen a single word against the Pakistan Army who has sanctioned such strikes. He loathes Anne Patterson and the United States with a passion, but had no issues applying for employment opportunities with US companies. Does he truly think that he is our messiah by making himself look like a fool?

    The Nation enjoyed the verdict against Aafia Siddiqui. Using the political storm created by the case, the paper blasted their favorite punching bag, Ambassador Haqqani and the federal government for not securing the release of Aafia Siddiqui. It is strange that they would think that an Ambassador has the ability to give an innocent verdict and advocate a criminal case. It was the same logic that led them to believe Mr. Haqqani wrote the Kerry-Lugar Bill!

    In a recent article, Kaswar Klasara articulates that Mr. Haqqani flew all the way from the United States to the PM Secretariat in order to clear his position after he badly failed to pursue Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s case efficiently. Mr. Klasara believes we live in a day and age without any telephones or emails. Surely, Mr. Haqqani could have made a simple phone call to PM Gilani instead of enduring a grueling fifteen hour flight?

    Also, how could The Nation possibly publish an article without calling for the Ambassador’s resignation? Using information from his beloved “source”, Klasara states the Presidency and PM Secretariat were proposed by certain quarters to replace Hussain Haqqani by a suitable career-diplomat. Now this rings a bell! Oh yes, it was Ahmed Quraishi and his little gang sitting at their writers cubicle in The Nation offices some time ago, creating a rumor where Mr. Haqqani was being removed within 48 hours. That “time ago” was October last year.

    Stop the hate Mr. Quraishi and Mr. Hamid! Nothing good can possibly come out of it. All you guys are doing is taking advantage of the gossip and drawing room politic culture present in Pakistan by instigating downright lies. Fuelling conspiracy theories is not the solution to the problems we face today. It is not going to help anyone’s cause. This path of destruction that you two are leading conservatives on is not going to stop the militants from blowing up another school in Peshawar or them killing a few innocent civilians in Karachi. Too many lives have been lost; too many politics have been played. Stop indulging in these malicious activities; it is time you two started acting with some maturity and dignity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *